Legislation that would crack down on so-called "puppy mills" is losing steam at the statehouse. The bill has cleared one committee in the Iowa House, but it’s bogged down in another as lawmakers consider allowing employees from the Iowa Department of Agriculture to inspect federally-licensed dog kennels that draw public complaints.
Robert Gibbens, regional director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Health Inspection Service, says his employees do a good job, but his federal agency is understaffed. "We used to visit them more often when we had less facilities and more inspectors. You know when you’re going someplace once or twice a year for a few hours, you’re getting a snapshot of what it looks like on that day. That’s why we go by unannounced," Gibbens says. "But, still, things can change in a hurry at a commercial dog kennel or at any facility."
According to Gibbens, three U.S.D.A. inspectors are responsible for policing nearly four-hundred commercial dog breeders in Iowa. Stephanie Shain of the Humane Society says that’s why the state needs to step in. "Currently in the state (of Iowa), if that state Department of Ag receives a complaint, they are powerless to do anything other than pass it on to the federal government in the hope that it will be inspected by them," Shain says.
The bill’s opponents argue it’s unlicensed breeders who cause the most problems and this legislation does nothing to address them. It’s unclear when or if the full House Ag Committee may consider the bill. Today’s discussion occurred in a subcommittee hearing.